H.R. McMaster warns, in the Atlantic, that China’s leaders are not friendly and have no intention of playing fair.
On November 8, 2017, Air Force One touched down in Beijing, marking the start of a state visit hosted by Chinaâ€™s president and Communist Party chairman, Xi Jinping. From my first day on the job as President Donald Trumpâ€™s national security adviser, China had been a top priority. …
Our last meeting of the state visit, in the Great Hall of the People, was with Li Keqiang, the premier of the State Council and the titular head of Chinaâ€™s government. If anyone in the American group had any doubts about Chinaâ€™s view of its relationship with the United States, Liâ€™s monologue would have removed them. He began with the observation that China, having already developed its industrial and technological base, no longer needed the United States. He dismissed U.S. concerns over unfair trade and economic practices, indicating that the U.S. role in the future global economy would merely be to provide China with raw materials, agricultural products, and energy to fuel its production of the worldâ€™s cutting-edge industrial and consumer products.
Leaving China, I was even more convinced than I had been before that a dramatic shift in U.S. policy was overdue. The Forbidden City was supposed to convey confidence in Chinaâ€™s national rejuvenation and its return to the world stage as the proud Middle Kingdom. But for me it exposed the fears as well as the ambitions that drive the Chinese Communist Partyâ€™s efforts to extend Chinaâ€™s influence along its frontiers and beyond, and to regain the honor lost during the century of humiliation. The fears and ambitions are inseparable. They explain why the Chinese Communist Party is obsessed with controlâ€”both internally and externally.
The partyâ€™s leaders believe they have a narrow window of strategic opportunity to strengthen their rule and revise the international order in their favorâ€”before Chinaâ€™s economy sours, before the population grows old, before other countries realize that the party is pursuing national rejuvenation at their expense, and before unanticipated events such as the coronavirus pandemic expose the vulnerabilities the party created in the race to surpass the United States and realize the China dream. The party has no intention of playing by the rules associated with international law, trade, or commerce. Chinaâ€™s overall strategy relies on co-option and coercion at home and abroad, as well as on concealing the nature of Chinaâ€™s true intentions. What makes this strategy potent and dangerous is the integrated nature of the partyâ€™s efforts across government, industry, academia, and the military.
And, on balance, the Chinese Communist Partyâ€™s goals run counter to American ideals and American interests.
Andrew A. Michta contends that the principles of Liberalism and Free Trade are philosophically fine, but have unacceptable drawbacks in a real world in which your trading partner is also your adversary and has no respect for human life.
By striving to â€œflattenâ€ the world (in Thomas Friedmanâ€™s memorable phrase) into a single, borderless entity in pursuit of nothing but profit and prosperity, this worldview has created huge blind spots. For example, it was powerless to predict that China would build on its early advantage in sheer numbers of low-skilled workers to lock in a dominant and increasingly powerful position for itself in global supply chains. Economies of scale played their part, as did the complementarity of the various manufacturing sectors the country strategically developed, not to mention Chinaâ€™s bullying and corrupting practices. The end result was that the costs of shifting to poorer countries would be unappetizing to corporate supply chain managers. Worse still, such thinking could not account for the fact that behind the scores of successful companies lay a monolithic, totalitarian, nationalist entity with a vision for restoring Chinaâ€™s role in the world: the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
When bereft of redundancies, networks devolve to hierarchies, which in turn create winners and losers. Hierarchies do not diminish the key importance of state power in international relations. On the contrary, they enable it. As China has grown to become the seemingly irreplaceable core of a globalized economy, the CCP has pursued predatory mercantilism in its commercial relations with the West, in the process tilting the hard power balance in its favor. In an economic system that allows for the flow of technology and capital across national borders, redundancies in the supply chain are essential to the preservation of state sovereignty and government capacity to act in a crisis. The Wuhan Virus pandemic is proving so devastating because the radical centralization of market networks has allowed for failure at a single point in our supply chain to leave the system with no capacity to off-load demand onto redundant networks.
In short, globalization, as preached and practiced over the past four decades, has been shown for what it has always been: profiteering off of a vast pool of centrally controlled labor. While many vast fortunes have been made in the West as a result, and as American consumers binged on low-cost goods, the biggest winner has naturally been the Chinese Communist Party elite. And though even before the 2016 U.S. election there was a growing realization among Western captains of industry that something was not quite right with Chinaâ€™s role in the system, few were willing to ask big enough questions about the system as a whole.
The fundamental question is one of values: Is this kind of globalization compatible with liberty and democratic governance? My simple answer is no. By ignoring the role of nations in the international systemâ€”or, if not ignoring, indeed prophesying the nationâ€™s demiseâ€”globalizationâ€™s boosters have implicitly, if perhaps unwittingly, lessened the accountability of elites and downgraded the voice of voters in these matters. No citizenry, if asked, would vote for the status quoâ€”their working-class communities gutted, their security endangered, and their country made dependent on an adversarial foreign power.
All web sites occasionally have technical issues, but Glenn Reynolds’ Instapundit blog is the absolute top of the heap in Conservative commentary, and it is well-supported by skilled professionals. I’ve seen it down before for a few hours, but never overnight.
My guess is that the site was taken down by a deliberate and very technically sophisticated attack in response to some posting or other criticizing the government of China and attributing to it responsibility for the COVID-19 international pandemic.
Cross Fu Manchu and the nefarious Si Fan, and the next thing you know, there’s a hamadryad in your bed.
Late yesterday, I was able to connect to Instapundit with Chrome & Explorer. Firefox still produces the same “Error establishing a database connection” message.
I have changed nothing in Firefox. Of course, an update may have.
Vanderleun suggests that clearing your cache may solve the problem. I would not be surprised if he was right.
NEW UPDATE, later 4/11:
It’s fixed. Glenn Reynolds stepped in and got it done.
Tim Blair responds to Chinese criticism of the Australian Daily Telegraph’s reporting:
The Daily Telegraph this week received a letter from the Australian Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China, who took gentle issue with our excellent coverage of the coronavirus crisis.
Following is a point-by-point response to the Consulate General and Chinaâ€™s communist dictatorship:
Recently the Daily Telegraph has published a number of reports and opinions about Chinaâ€™s response to COVID-19 that are full of ignorance, prejudice and arrogance.
If a state-owned newspaper in China received this kind of complaint, subsequent days would involve journalists waking up in prison with their organs harvested.
Tracing the origin of the virus is a scientific issue that requires professional, science-based assessment.
Sure it does. How professional and science-based was the claim published on March 12 by Chinaâ€™s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian that â€œit might be US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhanâ€?
The origin of the virus is still undetermined, and the World Health Organization has named the novel coronavirus â€œCOVID-19â€.
The World Health Organisation also appointed Zimbabwean murderer Robert Mugabe as its Goodwill Ambassador and declared on March 2 that the â€œstigmaâ€ of the coronavirus â€œis more dangerous than the virus itselfâ€.
The World Health Organisation does a lot of stupid stuff.
So what is the real motive behind your attempt to repeatedly link the virus to China and even stating that the novel coronavirus was â€œmade in Chinaâ€?
Our motive is accuracy. Thatâ€™s why we donâ€™t link the virus to Bognor Regis or state that it was â€œmade in Panamaâ€.
The people of Wuhan made a huge effort and personal sacrifice to stop the spread of the epidemic.
Wuhanâ€™s Dr Li Wenliang indeed made a huge effort to warn people about the coronavirus outbreak. Then, as the New York Times reported: â€œIn early January, he was called in by both medical officials and the police, and forced to sign a statement denouncing his warning as an unfounded and illegal rumor.â€
And now heâ€™s dead, so thatâ€™s â€œpersonal sacrificeâ€ covered as well.
In late January, Chinaâ€™s embassy in Denmark demanded an apology from daily Jyllands-Posten after it published a cartoon of the Chinese flag with its five yellow stars represented by coronavirus particles.
Tell douchebag modernist composer John Adams to go write a new opera, Kira Davis predicts that era created by Nixon’s opening to China and of the export of industrial production to China and American reliance on cheap Chinese labor is over.
Because this is 2020 and the whole damn world seems to have gone insane overnight, we are now being told that referring to COVID-19 as anything related to China or the Chinese in any way is â€œracistâ€ and xenophobic or some other bad thing. Even though this virus originated in China. Even though either their food choices or their government is responsible for unleashing this on the globe. It makes no sense, but none of this is making much sense right now. It certainly feels like we donâ€™t have all the information and thatâ€™s worrisome given the level of response weâ€™ve been seeing from our government. There is a lot that we, the people donâ€™t know.
But we do know one thing right about now. One thing is becoming more and more clear with each passing moment.
When this is all over we are f***ing done with China.
The Wall Street Journal introduces us to a Chinese spirit ranked high as a status symbol in the mystic East, whose taste is both admired and despised.
Chinaâ€™s Kweichow Moutai Co. has become the worldâ€™s most valuable liquor company thanks to a fiery spirit that can cost nearly $400 a bottle.
The spirit is baijiu, a Chinese liquor made by fermenting sorghum or other grains in brick or mud pits. The companyâ€™s version, known simply as Moutai, has a long association with Chinaâ€™s Communist leaders, and has become a homegrown status symbol for affluent Chinese.
One drawback: many people canâ€™t stand it.
The taste is â€œvery much like ethanol,â€ said Jenny Miao, a 26-year-old market researcher in Shanghai. At dinners with clients, she said she sometimes has to toast with Moutai, but will then drink water to wash away the aftertaste.
Baijiu detractors say the taste reminds them of paint stripper or kerosene, especially the cheap varieties. It does have many genuine fans, who laud baijiuâ€™s complexity and distinct flavor varietiesâ€”strong, light, soy-sauce, and rice aroma.
One liquor website describes Moutai as having â€œa silky mouthfeelâ€ and says it carries â€œan undertone of baking spice.â€ Other reviewers say the drink conjures tastes of nuts, sesame paste, mushrooms, cheese, and dark chocolate.
Moutai is usually served in tiny glasses that contain about a third of an ounce of the spirit. Shots are frequently downed to show respect for someone making a toast. People in China say â€œgan beiâ€ before drinking, which literally means â€œdry cup.â€
I asked a longtime friend who is a USG China-watcher for a no-kidding assessment of current energy usage in PRC. Energy usage is a vital sign for the economy:
China imports are down 20% with about a year and a half strategic stockpile in tanks inland and ships in port (China has a strange habit of keeping oil at sea). In fact, their oil use is down so severely that Saudi Arabia and Russia are coordinating their reduction in oil production (which is totally ridiculous because they are both one commodity economies and are directly confronting one another for customers to balance their national budgets).
This is from Chevron yesterday:
Working to lift markets this morning is the talk of supply cuts coming from OPEC+. Signs point to OPEC+ being willing to deepen cuts amidst the decreased demand caused by the coronavirus. OPEC+ is gathering for an urgent assessment of how Asiaâ€™s coronavirus may hurt oil demand; technical experts from the OPEC+ coalition will meet at the cartelâ€™s Vienna headquarters to evaluate the diseaseâ€™s impact.Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz spoke by phone and discussed the grim situation of the global hydrocarbon market, the Kremlin said in an emailed statement; both leaders confirmed their readiness to continue cooperation to keep the global oil market stable.
Crude is recovering most of yesterdayâ€™s losses this morning, but markets are still reeling from last weekâ€™s declines.
Concern continues over the effects of the coronavirus on oil demand in China and Asia, but traders seem to have priced most of those concerns into the market already. The major remaining variable is how long will the crisis continue.
Crude prices are up this morning. Crude is currently trading at $51.07, a gain of 96 cents.Fuel prices are up. Diesel is trading at $1.6049, a gain of 2.7 cents.
Gasoline is trading at $1.4892, a gain of 1.6 cents.
Basically, China was already using less energy from the tariff war and now the virus has literally shut down the Yangtze River from Wuhan eastward to Shanghai (basically Saint Louis towards New Orleans– that’s how serious it is).
Keep in mind, the impact of China’s decline in energy use is driving oil prices down to the point many important national budgets cannot meet their obligations, which will put people in the streets protesting already compromised governments (Russia is the most vulnerable, then places like Venezuela are put in even more trouble, and the whole Belt/Road thing will fall apart).
Here is the plot of Hamlet in a nutshell: The soldiers who meet the Ghost of Hamletâ€™s murdered father on the ramparts of Elsinore Castle were not posted there by accident: As they explain in the playâ€™s opening lines, the King of Norway, young Fortinbras, will invade Denmark soon, and they are set as lookouts. The Ghost comes along and distracts them and young Hamlet, and the dramatis personae engage in various machinations until, at the end, all of them lay dead on the stage. Just as Hamlet expires, who should enter but Fortinbras, who asks: â€œWhoâ€™s in charge here? Uh, everybodyâ€™s dead. I guess I am.â€
Shakespeareâ€™s audience doubtless rolled in the aisles. Fortinbras, the playâ€™s shadow protagonist, typically is cut from modern productions (for example, the 1948 Laurence Olivier film version), which makes the rest of the action meaningless. Such is the atrophy of the modern sense of humor.
In our present version of Hamlet, the role of Fortinbras is played by Xi Jinping. China wants dominant position in what it calls the Fourth Industrial Revolution â€“ the transformation of economic life by ubiquitous high-speed communications and artificial intelligence. Industrial robots that talk to each other and work out industrial processes without human input, mining robots operated via 5G by technicians with virtual reality visors, a global medical system powered by real-time uploads of the vital signs of a billion smartphone users and digitized health records, autonomous vehicles, e-commerce and e-finance links easing the retail transactions of billions of people will become standard over the next two decades.
Meanwhile, the United States has invested virtually nothing in the driver of this revolution, namely high-speed, infinite-capacity and zero-latency broadband. Less than 1% of all venture capital investments are now devoted to hardware. The American tech giants are content to invest in high-return, infinitely-scalable software and leave the physics to Asia. In 2015 America shipped about 30% of semiconductors worldwide, but barely 10% today.
No American company offers 5G manufacturing equipment, which has become a Chinese monopoly. Huawei dominates the market with a 30% market share, but its two largest competitors, Ericsson and Nokia, depend on a Chinese supply chain, offering equipment with the same components, but a Scandinavian label and a higher price. …
Fortinbras invaded Hamletâ€™s Denmark. His modern avatar Xi Jinping doesnâ€™t covet Cleveland, but aims for a controlling position in the decisive technologies of the 21st century. The United States is busy with the twists and turns of a macabre political plot that serves as a distraction from the main thread of the plot. As I wrote on January 26, the Pentagon last week abandoned attempts to further restrict US component sales to Huawei, arguing (correctly) that they would hurt American tech companies more than they would hurt China. And now the United Kingdom has asked Washington, â€œWhat have you done for us lately?â€
The United States should cancel an aircraft carrier or two and announce a whatever-it-takes, Manhattan Project-style program to build out its own 5G capacity. Short of that, it has no choice but to reconcile itself to the mediocrity of its circumstances.